Danger in Foreign Missions

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Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Rvaughn » Mon Nov 26, 2018 11:29 pm

This has been discussed in a couple of other places I am wont to haunt, so I thought I'd see if anyone here has thoughts.

26-year-old missionary John Allen Chau of Vancouver, Washington was killed last week while trying to make contact with an isolated unreached tribe of people on the North Sentinel Island off of mainland India. Some reports spoke of him as a tourist, but he was a missionary of the All Nations sending agency, Kansas City, Missouri.
Leaders, members and friends of All Nations (http://www.allnations.us), an international Christian missions training and sending organization, are mourning the reported death of one of its missionaries, 26-year-old John Allen Chau of Vancouver, Wash., U.S.A.

All Nations representatives are working with authorities in the U.S. and overseas to confirm details of Chau’s reported killing sometime between Nov. 16 and Nov. 18, when he visited remote North Sentinel Island, located in the Indian Ocean.

http://allnationsfamily.org/all-nations-grieves-reported-death-of-humble-cou-rageous-missionary-on-remote-indian-ocean-island/
“All Nations is deeply saddened by this news and wants to publicly express our deepest sorrow for this monumental loss,” said International Executive Leader Dr. Mary Ho. “We have been in contact with John’s family and ask all to join us in praying for his family and friends during this time. We have been in contact with the U.S. State Department and continue to cooperate fully with all international, national and regional officials.”

Chau was not a Baptist (at least I've not seen it mentioned that he is), but taking the gospel to unreached people has been and is a large part of Baptist faith and practice, so hopefully this is relevant to this forum. He has been hammered as a moron and hailed as a martyr. When all the facts are in he will probably fall somewhere in between. Regardless, we can pray for his family in their loss.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Haruo » Tue Nov 27, 2018 1:17 am

He was both, a moron and a martyr.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Haruo » Tue Nov 27, 2018 1:18 am

I've heard conflicting reports as to where he went to college, Oral Roberts or Liberty.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Dave Roberts » Tue Nov 27, 2018 8:15 am

Part of this story is wrapped in the assumption that the goal is to go in and tell the story. The problem is that there must be a context for the story. As you look at the missions model practiced by Paul as an example, he either began in the Jewish synagogue and continued there or began with the "God-fearers" who were already drawn to monotheism. Where he did not have that context, he settled into a longer stay to establish the context for his mission. The idea of getting in the face of isolated tribes with the gospel seems a waste of a good life. Contacts before plunging onto a beach is essential. The agency he represented bears a lot a guilt here unless he was in defiance of orders.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Rvaughn » Tue Nov 27, 2018 8:47 am

Haruo wrote:I've heard conflicting reports as to where he went to college, Oral Roberts or Liberty.
I have only seen Oral Roberts University mentioned in reports I have read.

ORU does claim him as an alumnus, see HERE.

That's doesn't mean he didn't attend Liberty also.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Joseph Patrick » Tue Nov 27, 2018 12:57 pm

From Gerry Milligan...How can one dispute what a person perceives as a "call from God." In our 32 years on the field with the FMB/IMB, the vetting process was rather extensive, but there were a few who made it to the field based on what they perceived as a call. Most (not an empirical amount) of those did not last one term. One family who made it to the field with a severely disabled child tried to sue the IMB for sending them home because they were "called." I have no knowledge of All Nations, but wonder why someone who could not communicate with his target people would not be discouraged from trying to engage that people group? Did All Nations fail him? I do not know. Was he a moron? Probably. I do not think that God would call someone and let him flounder, but cannot question a true "call from God." Is he a martyr? I cannot say yes based on what little I know. Was a life wasted? That remains to be seen.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Sandy » Tue Nov 27, 2018 4:04 pm

It seems dangerously subjective to claim a "calling" to take the gospel to a particular people group and to just do that without some kind of objective affirmation. Feeling that "the Lord has laid this on my heart" is sometimes just a personal mandate to do as you please and use God as an excuse. There is a branch of Christianity (and Oral Roberts University would be one of its promoters) that believes you can just go and "speak the word" and God is somehow obligated to bless it. I see that perspective in some of the comments about this incident.

There is a fine line in the whole modern missions movement in America where enthusiasm and "calling" crosses a line into arrogance, including attitudes of cultural superiority and acting like missionaries coming to your country is doing you a favor, or that you expect some kind of response from people who have heard the gospel for the first time.

During a period of time when I was the senior staff member left at a church after the pastor resigned, our youth pastor was hot to put together a mission trip to Japan to "help" one of our sister SBC congregations "evangelize." This was at a cost of somewhere around $2,000 per person. I asked the obvious question about how could a group of mostly youth who did not speak Japanese assist a church with "evangelism." From the reaction I got, you'd have thought that I didn't understand the second chapter of Acts. The justification turned out to be a lot of discussion about the experience for the youth, how few Christians there are in the country, how the presence of American Christians would be a "shot in the arm" of the church. Out of a week in the country they spent a couple of afternoons handing out copies of the "Jesus Movie" in Japanese at the subway station. Other than a short clip of two or three students walking up to people showing them the package with the movie, and a few minutes of the worship service on Sunday, the rest of their return video was of their sightseeing adventure. Testimonies on their return were about the "poor" Japanese people, masses of whom don't know Christ because there aren't very many Evangelical churches and how sad they were because there was all this prosperity but no faith. Maybe their presence was a boost to the congregation they served, a group of about 100 people total, most of whom were European and American expatriates.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby William Thornton » Tue Nov 27, 2018 5:44 pm

All the comments are good. I particularly appreciate Gerry's and others who have lived overseas and have experience with adventurers. I've said a lot elsewhere. I sympathize with the grieving family and friends of the man.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Haruo » Tue Nov 27, 2018 7:19 pm

I still want to know the gospel function of the plastic football he left on the beach as a gift prior to returning to be martyred.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Haruo » Tue Nov 27, 2018 7:22 pm

I mean, I understand that Jesus has a lot invested in American football, but using as the opening sermon topic when preaching to a people group that has never had any contact with American (Christian) culture seems ill thought out, somehow.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Tim Bonney » Tue Nov 27, 2018 10:44 pm

Haruo wrote:He was both, a moron and a martyr.


Closer to moron than martyr I'm afraid.

Every clear sign was that these people do not tolerate being disturbed. It was an idea almost fated for disaster. I have a hard time considering taking on a fool hardy mission as making you a martyr.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Rvaughn » Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:44 am

Sandy wrote:There is a branch of Christianity (and Oral Roberts University would be one of its promoters) that believes you can just go and "speak the word" and God is somehow obligated to bless it.
I've tried not to speculate about things "not in evidence," but the Oral Roberts connection has made me wonder if a belief in the gift of tongues might have somehow come into play in the attempt to speak to the Sentinelse.
Sandy wrote:During a period of time when I was the senior staff member left at a church after the pastor resigned, our youth pastor was hot to put together a mission trip to Japan to "help" one of our sister SBC congregations "evangelize." This was at a cost of somewhere around $2,000 per person. I asked the obvious question about how could a group of mostly youth who did not speak Japanese assist a church with "evangelism." From the reaction I got, you'd have thought that I didn't understand the second chapter of Acts. The justification turned out to be a lot of discussion about the experience for the youth, how few Christians there are in the country, how the presence of American Christians would be a "shot in the arm" of the church. Out of a week in the country they spent a couple of afternoons handing out copies of the "Jesus Movie" in Japanese at the subway station. Other than a short clip of two or three students walking up to people showing them the package with the movie, and a few minutes of the worship service on Sunday, the rest of their return video was of their sightseeing adventure.
I've long thought that many of these "mission trips" were more about vacations at the expense of the church than about actual mission work.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Rvaughn » Wed Nov 28, 2018 8:47 am

William Thornton wrote:I've said a lot elsewhere.
I use this as an opportunity to point you to William's article at SBC Voices -- A sober and sensible look at the danger of missionary work. He also links to articles on the incident and topic at Religion News Service and Baptist Press.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby KeithE » Wed Nov 28, 2018 9:50 am

As a counter example, have any of you read Bruchko?

He (Bruce Olson) survived a very hostile environment in the jungles of Columbia.

Read more:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Olson

Current estimates are that 70% of the Barí people are now Christians.

As Olson's work with the Barí grew, he helped them establish a written language, schools, community health centers, and even to work with the Colombian government to protect Barí lands. As Barí young people began to be fluent in both Barí and in Spanish, they studied to become doctors, lawyers, and other professionals, but brought their expertise back to the tribe, using it from within their culture.


I'd call him a hero - not a moron or a martyr. He did God’s social work, not just conversions.

I’d say John Allen Chau should occupy the same high ground.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Nov 28, 2018 10:47 am

Rvaughn wrote:
William Thornton wrote:I've said a lot elsewhere.
I use this as an opportunity to point you to William's article at SBC Voices -- A sober and sensible look at the danger of missionary work. He also links to articles on the incident and topic at Religion News Service and Baptist Press.


Good article William!

As said in the article, the would be missionary's zeal is commendable. But basically running a suicide mission isn't what I would think any thoughtful mission sending agency or leadership would recommend.

I think it does bring up a valid question if the imperative to share the gospel included an imperative to force it down the throats of folks who don't want it? And how would we feel if the shoe was on the other foot and some person came to our door and insisted that we listen to a presentation of their religious faith, want it or not? I might easily find myself telling them to get off my property.

I'm on no way condoning the tribal violence of course. But don't people also have a right to say no to the gospel too?
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Nov 28, 2018 4:17 pm

I was just listening to a radio program on NPR which mentioned the missionary. An organized that helped train the missionary would not endorse what he chose to do.

It was also pointed out the he put the people of the Island at great risk because there is evidence that these Islanders have no immunity to common illnesses not on the Island. he basically could killed the tribe if he'd given them as much as a case of the flu.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Haruo » Wed Nov 28, 2018 4:48 pm

Probably an antivaxer, too...
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Nov 28, 2018 7:02 pm

Haruo wrote:Probably an antivaxer, too...


Well, I'd not be terribly surprised.

I wonder if was among those Christian who believe that if someone doesn't preach the gospel to that tribe that they will all go to hell? That certainly would give a different imperative to his mission work.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Rvaughn » Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:06 pm

Tim Bonney wrote:I was just listening to a radio program on NPR which mentioned the missionary. An organized that helped train the missionary would not endorse what he chose to do.
Did NPR mention the name of that organization?
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Tim Bonney » Wed Nov 28, 2018 11:39 pm

Rvaughn wrote: Did NPR mention the name of that organization?


This is the group that trained him. https://allnations.us
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Rvaughn » Thu Nov 29, 2018 4:05 pm

Thanks, Tim. That's interesting. Their initial response to his death (in the OP) doesn't indicate anything like that. Perhaps they were just being polite, and later maybe decided to respond because they were getting push-back against irresponsibility in their agency.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Sandy » Thu Nov 29, 2018 4:30 pm

Rvaughn wrote:I've tried not to speculate about things "not in evidence," but the Oral Roberts connection has made me wonder if a belief in the gift of tongues might have somehow come into play in the attempt to speak to the Sentinelse.


I wondered the same thing. Looking through the statement of faith of the sending organization, they have a paragraph stating their belief in signs and wonders, and that all of the spiritual gifts of the New Testament are active and present in the church today.

I don't know if that factored into his decision, thinking that if he were called there for that purpose, he would receive that gift. On the other hand, it looks like he was planning to learn the language by living among the people and getting to know it that way.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Rvaughn » Fri Nov 30, 2018 9:12 am

Bob Allen's take at Baptist News:
A millennial martyr? The complicated legacy of John Allen Chau
Allen quotes some who call Chau "a very contemporary kind of villain," and his way "environmental pollution," "plain arrogance," and "toxic Christianity." Near the conclusion he quotes Steven Porter, the coordinator of global missions for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Porter doesn't consider Chau a martyr, but pushes back against some of the harsher critiques.
The CBF’s Porter, however, said it is a mistake to overreact to failings of an earlier age.

“Historians have documented that the modern missionary movement preserved indigenous cultures from eradication at the hands of Western imperialism, most notably through Bible translation,” Porter said. “Likewise, political scientists have discovered a direct connection between presence of democratic cultures in the global South and the work of evangelical Protestant missionaries whose high view of the human person and congregational polity planted seeds of democracy and human rights.”

Certainly, we must learn all we can from the missteps of Christian mission in the past to avoid them in the future, but let’s not fail to recognize the concrete contributions to human flourishing Christian missionaries made,” Porter said. “For those who believe human flourishing ultimately depends on communion with the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all things — the triune God — then bearing witness is not an option for some but a common vocation for all.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Tim Bonney » Fri Nov 30, 2018 10:17 am

Did anyone notice that the mission sending agency looked like the directors are all a bunch of amateurs? I didn’t see much in any of their bios about missiological training, theological education, etc.

I read in at least one article that common practice for missionaries now is that you do not go into a potentially hostile mission field without knowing the basics of the language. It is pretty tough to learn a language from someone who is trying to kill you. I’m wondering if he had different missionlogical training if he might not have made the fatal mistake he made?

Also, despite what the CBF leader said above, it is also my understanding that current practice is that you don’t do anything to endanger the people who are intending to witness to. The warnings about the tribe’s lack of immunity to disease should have been a strong caution against close contact. You don’t learn languages from people trying to kill you, and you don’t lead people to Jesus if you end up killing them.
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Re: Danger in Foreign Missions

Postby Sandy » Fri Nov 30, 2018 12:11 pm

I don't think you can gather much from the bios on their website. A few of those on there do list degrees, including those appropriate for missions service, and there are a couple who use the title Doctor, assuming that's a PhD or a theology degree. It's not a thing anymore on church or ministry websites to have long lists of "degrees and pedigrees". Smiling faces, short video clips and a casual appearance are the thing now. I know from seminary friends who didn't get accepted by the IMB that there are agencies who send anyone willing and provide limited training. I don't think we will ever know anything about this particular missionary's motivation or plan. But it will be a black eye on the modern missions movement.
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